Rodrigo Pessoa’s team of Shane Sweetnam, Bertram Allen, Denis Lynch and Cian O’Connor, produced an outstanding performance over three demanding days of jumping, to snatch the coveted gold medal from hosts Sweden who had been leading heading into the final day at the Ullevi arena.
Cork’s Shane Sweetnam got his team off to the perfect start with a clear round aboard the Spy Coast Farm-owned Chaqui Z when first to go. Tipperary’s Denis Lynch then heaped the pressure on leaders Sweden, Switzerland lying in second and Belgium who had been tied with Ireland in third after Thursday’s second round. Lynch and Thomas Straumann’s stallion All Star crossed the line with a breath-taking clear round and as poles began to fall for the other teams Ireland moved into gold medal position.
Ireland’s anchor rider Cian O’Connor entered the ring knowing a clear or one fence down would give Ireland gold, but with no discard score due to the fact that Bertram Allen had to withdraw from the final round after a fall on Thursday, anything more than one fence down would prove costly. Riding the stallion Good Luck, owned by Adena Springs & Ronnoco Jump Ltd, O’Connor showed his experience and remained cool under pressure and produced a flawless clear round as Ireland were crowned European Champions.
The hosts Sweden claimed the silver medal in front of an ecstatic home crowd, while Switzerland took home the bronze.
Ireland’s gold medal win comes 16 years after they were last crowned European Champions European Champions at Arnhem (NED) in 2001. Tommy Wade’s team on that occasion included Kevin Babington (Carling King), Jessica Kürten (Bonita), Peter Charles (Corrada) and Dermott Lennon.(Liscalgot). Ireland won team bronze in 1979 in Rotterdam (NED) with Col Billy Ringrose as Chef d’Equipe and a team made up of Gerry Mullins (Ballinderry), Con Power (Rockbarton), John Roche (Maigh Cullin) and Eddie Macken with the legendary Boomerang.
A thrilled Irish team manager Rodrigo Pessoa said:
“I am really proud of all our riders. This win is really special. This was the goal at the start of the season, the road has been bumpy but we stuck together and showed a lot of character. I also want to thank all our horses owners for their incredible support and all the staff at Horse Sport Ireland.